Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Scarborough’

Following a day off in sunny Scarborough I am feeling refreshed and ready to complete my first ever National Trail. Yesterday I did little more than potter around like a tourist. Perhaps the highlight of my rest day was walking past Scarborough cricket ground, realising the gates were open and popping in to watch the last 10 overs between two talented youth teams.

Inevitably any vitamin D accumulated under yesterday’s skies is now crawling out of my pores with the return of my own personal rain god, although for the time being I’m being treated only to a fine mizzle. This suits me fine as according to my much-abused Cleveland Way guide book it isn’t considered cheating to catch an open top tourist bus from the North Bay to the Spa in the South Bay.

On the buses

On the buses

I hop into the 109 bus and eagerly take my place on the top deck like some young boy on a school trip. Instead of heading down the sea-front and around the headland as expected the bus takes off up the hill through town where I get a birds-eye view of bedroom windows and offices, before eventually rejoining the promenade in South Bay. Embarrassing.

Right bus, wrong direction

Right bus, wrong direction

I love the ambience of the grand old Spa, especially the inappropriately named Sun Court. Elderly couples sip tea silently looking out to sea, or perhaps only as far as the rain drops sliding down the windows, as they contemplate an afternoon performance watching Howard Beaumont play “light classics”. The thought of this alone is enough to propel me with some vigour into the damp horizon.

Rain Court

Rain Court

The path sticks to the shoreline at first, barely out of reach of the highest tide which licks against my feet at one point. Not for the first time I imagine returning here to watch the sea when it is angry!

No danger today

No danger today

On this final day my rucksack feels almost weightless on the first climb up to higher ground. This may be partly due to the reduced water load following yesterdays leakage fiasco but there is no doubt that your body gets used to the strains put upon it over time.

My rucksack feels weightless. Hang on, where is it?

My rucksack feels weightless. Hang on, where is it?

The cliffs south of Scarborough exhibit plenty of signs of slippage. Will all of this rain accelerate the erosion? Perhaps on some hypothetical return journey I would find some short sections of the walk to have been redirected inland. Damp hay bales peer through the haze when only days ago their woven strands of gold sparkled brightly.

Soggy harvest

Soggy harvest

The paths here are muddier than they have been so far on the coastal leg and caution is needed to avoid any slips. Sometimes the visibility clears momentarily to reveal the rough cliff face all the way down to the sea. There must be plenty of interest here for geologists.

Now thats what you call a cliff

Now thats what you call a cliff

Despite the drizzle there is no wind and it doesn’t feel cold. The landscape though keeps dropping hints that it can get very rough up here.

Surfs really up

Surfs really up

So easy is the walk that the miles are flying by. The walking feels different today – less isolated – as houses are visible at many points and then a golf course keeps me me company over the distance of a few holes. Golfers in purple clad waterproofs take it in turns to hit their tee shots into the same fairway bunker, presumably unintentionally.

Cliff-top home, for now...

Cliff-top home, for now…

For the first time on the Cleveland Way I come across a large walking party of perhaps 30 people, also heading towards Filey. The path has momentarily joined a road and I storm pass in order to get ahead of them before it narrows back into the undergrowth. Only when I look over my shoulder and don’t see them do I realise I have missed the turn-off in my haste. Not only do I have to sheepishly retrace my steps and excuse my way past them all but they know I missed the turn. Embarrassing. Again.

It’s quiet from here with barely a soul on the trail. I’m wrapped up in idle thought – distance walking is good for that – when out of the haze I see a shape that I recognise. It’s a carved stone that looks similar to the one I saw in Helmsley at the start of the walk. It is inscribed with the words Cleveland Way. This must be Filey Brigg! I’m here – the walk is over!

Done it!

Done it!

And that’s it. There are no fireworks – it is just me, and my immediate thought is “what now?”. It feels like an anticlimax, probably because due to the limited visibility the end just snuck up on me.

We don't need good weather for the beach. We're British!

We don’t need good weather for the beach. We’re British!

Filey Brigg is a long finger of cliff that extends out to sea to form the northern end of the bay. I continue my walk south down to the beach with the intention of continuing to the end of the finger (the fingernail?) but the tide is too high, so I continue a few hundred yards to Filey and up a cobblestone slipway. The slipway is a parking lot for fishing boats once again lending evidence to my optimistic theory that small fishing businesses are at least surviving if not thriving.

Working boat

Working boat

There may be no marching band to herald the completion of my walk but I’m determined to immerse myself in the essence of Filey (talcum powder as it turns out) and treat my arrival as a celebration. The worst overnight accommodation of my trip (camping barn included) awaits me at a pub – a cold room where the en-suite has a bath but no shower – but once again there’s a warm welcome.

Never was a street so aptly named

Never was a street so aptly named

And so to a pub to make something of the evening. It’s a Friday evening and everywhere is quiet it seems except for the Imperial Vaults where a live band is setting up. I grab the only free table and prepare to be entertained, but my entertainment when it arrives is not from the band.

Sue and Frank ask if they can share the table and we end up chatting all evening. Sue is an established expert in marine biology. She exudes boundless energy and enthusiasm for her field and tells me how she is out on the exposed Brigg in all weathers collecting samples. It is wonderful when somebody has so clearly found their vocation and she is funny to boot. Frank is a well travelled session musician who seems to have played with everybody. He speaks modestly about his musical career but I’m in awe of this guy who has struck out and done so much.

We discuss all sorts of topics with shared enthusiasm but I’m captivated by a tale of treasure! John Paul Jones (no, not that one) is commonly thought of as the father of the US navy. His ship, the legendary Bonhomme Richard, was sank off these shores in 1779 and has never been found. Frank tells me about a diver here called John Adams (probably drinking in The Grapes right now) who claims to have located the wreck after decades of investigation. While all of this may be of passing interest in the UK the ship has the stature of the Mary Rose in the US and heavily funded US search teams have been trying to trace the vessel also. A National Geographic article on the subject makes compulsive reading.

An evening with Sue and Frank caps my day and it is only a shame when we have to go our separate ways. I head to my cave/room with a head full of nautical adventure and the feeling of satisfaction of a completed walk

When I planned the walk I didn’t actually book anywhere at Filey but come Saturday morning I’m glad I did. The sun is out and the skies are clear at last so this is an opportunity to take a proper look at the sea-front.

Just perfect

Just perfect

Filey Bay is huge! I hadn’t appreciated this yesterday but it must be 5 miles wide. There are no amusements here, nor indeed much at all along the front beyond a few basic hot drink stalls and a crazy golf course from the 70s. I lose myself in the moment – an endless strip of pebble dashed sand, the hypnotic rise and fall of breaking waves providing an unchallenged soundtrack, sunlight dazzling off the infinite horizon. This is sublime.

Part of the landscape

Part of the landscape

Back on the cobblestone slipway the boats are lined up following their early morning rounds. I’m too late to see the action but would love to know if this tractor still actually works. Surely not…

Rust bucket

Rust bucket

I’ve a bus to catch to Scarborough and then onto Helmsley where I hope my car is still parked. There’s just time to wonder around the streets and get a feel for Filey, and I have to say – it’s joyous! I sometimes lament modern life and pine for at least some aspects of the “old days” but at Filey the old days live on – hilariously so! It’s as if father time arrived at the town boundary and said – Nah.

Town of the future

Town of the future

Several people have actually apologised to me about the time-warp that they call home. God knows I wouldn’t want to live here but I’m so glad that it exists! Everyone is ancient. Where are all the young people? OMG – what have they done with the young people?! When I do finally see a young boy and girl they are throwing a brick into a gravel patch. This place has nothing for them.

Hot wheels

Hot wheels

Every other shop seems to sell or hire mobility scooters. A menswear shop has me laughing out loud with its window display – a trilby hat, thermal underwear, grey cardigan and a plastic duck – which for some reason just works! I am thrilled at the thought that the the town of Filey must consistently top a sales graph at the headquarters of Izal. But I love the sense of community and the fact that, in repelling almost all of the high street chains, the streets are packed full of small family businesses. Yes!

Filey has after all served up a memorable end to a walk that has been rich in memories. And with that I board the bus to Scarborough. And boy, you should see the bus station…

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
The final day and completion of my Cleveland Way walk!

High point
Sharing my evening with Sue and Frank (plus finishing the walk of course)

Low point
Checking into a cold pub room with no shower and little hot water.

Daily Stats
Stage  10 – Scarborough to Filey
Distance  11.2 miles Speed  3.5 mph
Lowest  121ft Highest  459ft
Ascent  636ft Descent  587ft

…and the route taken…


Read Full Post »

The finish line may be in sight but the question is whether I can stay motived to complete the walk. Overnights like Fern Leigh B&B present a challenge to my mental stamina because they are so very comfortable. Breakfast in the panelled dining room is a massive treat as my host makes her own bread, preserves and yoghurt. It is getting increasingly hard to rouse myself from this comfort, to leave for a half day walk in mixed weather while carrying a rucksack up and down the hills.

I’m starting to come down with a cold which may explain any lethargy. Lucky that today’s walk to Scarborough starts off with an easy roll down the hill to the foot of Robin Hoods Bay. My problems come quickly to the fore this morning. The damp feeling on my back hasn’t been a trick of my imagination as I realise the cheap water bladder bought off eBay prior to the walk is leaking. I suspected as much a couple of days ago but what had started off with dampness has now progressed to a portable waterfall.

Lack of bladder control

Lack of bladder control

Abandoning my water supply is not an option but I only have a half litre bottle in which I could decant the water, which would be too little for five hours on the hills. I take the decision to attach the bladder to the rear of my rucksack with the acceptance that this 2.5l weight will throw out my balance. So long as I walk carefully things should be fine…

Within 90 seconds I slip backwards while walking down some wet stairs, the leveraged weight pulling me off balance. I get up gingerly and take stock – it’s OK, nobody saw me.

I'm about to slip down the wooden stairs...

I’m about to slip down the wooden stairs…

The path follows some steps and then levels off before descending again down to the delightfully named Boggle Hole which appears to be nothing more than a minor inlet where a stream meets the sea. The only construction I can see here is a Youth Hostel which I imagine must be very popular with coastal walkers.

After another brief encounter with an inlet at Stoupe Beck the path heads off up again through the trees, emerging on the cliff edge from which I would apparently be able to make out Scarborough Castle and even Filey Brigg were it not for a slight sea haze that is limiting the horizon and flattening my photos.

Good views in the right conditions

Good views in the right conditions

One feature that does loom large from a distance is Ravenscar, a village set high on a cliff-top that I already know about having seen it featured on BBC’s Coast programme.

Ravenscar, the resort that never was

Ravenscar, the resort that never was

In the late 19th century plans were drawn up to construct a holiday resort to attract visitors away from existing resorts like Scarborough via the new railway line. A road system was constructed and basic amenities provisioned but the scheme was prematurely brought to an end through bankruptcy. A handful of houses were built but you have to wonder how popular the destination would have been high on a hill, exposed to strong winds and with no access to the sea shore.

Curbed ambitions

Curbed ambitions

I had hoped to spend awhile here exploring the remnants of this ghost town but cold nagging rain put paid to my enthusiasm. An original street curb is all that I can make out as the Cleveland Way path returns to the cliff edge. It is cliff walking all the way from here and while I never tire of the rugged beauty of this coastline it does feel increasingly like Autumn is on the way.

A path for all seasons

A path for all seasons

A curious huddle of buildings in a field south of Ravenscar arouses my curiosity and a sign next to a small brick Coastguard lookout shelter by the path explains that they formed part of a radar station during the war. Constructed in late 1940 as part of a chain of coastal stations a radar dish was mounted on top of the barrel shaped building (left) while staff occupied a building further up the hill. These unlikely shells are now listed as Ancient Monuments and afforded protection as such. My photo is rubbish but some photos by Rich Cooper are much more illuminating.

Former radar station near Ravenscar

Former radar station near Ravenscar

The path remains high except for a dip down to Hayburn Wyke which makes an attractive rocky stopping off point. It’s very peaceful here, just the hypnotic sounds of the waves crashing against the shoreline punctuated by bird calls carried on the wind. It’s here that I finally give up on my badly suspended water bladder which has been throwing me off balance, and decant what I can into a hand-held water bottle.

Dramatic cliffs

Dramatic cliffs

Further down the coast there is yet more evidence of the never-ending battle between land and sea. Of course, the sea always wins in the end, but not before generations of sea-birds have exploited the crags and crannies of the rock face for breeding and shelter.

The sea always wins in the end

The sea always wins in the end

I’m not far north of Scarborough when I draw near to a flock of bird-watchers (what is the collective term for bird-watchers? flock, gaggle, brood, nerd?). They are pointing an array of optical devices towards a spot in the gorse overlooking the sea – there must be something dramatic or exotic to see! Taking care not to make any sudden moves or create a noise I whisper in reverence to a woolly hatted bearded twitcher (common garden variety), asking what they have in their sights. “Oh, nothing special today – mostly gulls and plovers”. Oh, right then.

Northern approaches to Scarborough - click to expand

Northern approaches to Scarborough – click to expand

Underwhelmed by this news I listen to a podcast for the next few easy miles until Scarborough castle materialises and before long the entire North Bay opens up over a headland. It has been years since I visited Scarborough and so, despite being close to the end of the Cleveland Way, I have booked an extra night here to allow some exploration and rest.

My pleasant B&B is easy to locate on the cliff above this bay and I turn myself around before heading out again to make the most of the days remaining light. There are so many Hotels and B&Bs here which makes for competitive rates but also for struggling businesses according to my landlady.

View from the Castle Road - click to expand

View from the Castle Road – click to expand

The high coastal road leading towards the castle is lined with imposing B&Bs that hark back to a time when “architecture” wasn’t some optional extra on new-builds. They exude a faded grandeur, some optimistically clinging onto the label of Hotel like some English Sunset Boulevard. And what names – The Malborough, Balmoral, Belmont – yet with plastic signs, flaking paint and I imagine wall-to-wall faded carpet imbued with the lingering essence of full English Breakfast. Yet these businesses persist and there is a genuine warmth about them that I’m so fond of.

Beyond the castle the path winds down to the old harbour. In these times of hardship for traditional industries I have been heartened to come across seemingly successful fishing businesses operating from harbours like Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay so it’s pleasing to see plenty of signs of life also here in Scarborough.

Still farming the seas

Still farming the seas

The harbour is crowded with vessels of all types and purpose, from crab and fishing boats to sailing boats and sea cruise vessels. A school party is rumbustiously boarding an ageing tour boat, the strains of Celine Dion’s Titanic theme tune drifting out of the PA in an attempt at humour the kids will probably be too young to get.

Salty old sea dog

Salty old sea dog

There’s a lot here to see and enjoy, a view that that plenty of benched chip-consuming onlookers agree with. I particularly like the swimmer statue facing south across the bay. It has not just grace but humour, unlike the over-hyped Damien Hirst statue I saw in Ilfracombe recently that reminded me of Terminator.

Ready for a dip

Ready for a dip

Considering the long embedded status of Scarborough as a tourist resort it is refreshing to find that the sea-front has not been allowed to be gobbled up by amusement arcades. Of course there are a few but this is not some Blackpool of the North East. There has to be a balance between tack and taste, new and old in order to keep a place like this alive without destroying its heritage. I note a side-road from a different age and wonder which direction it will pushed in. For me it is an asset to be retained.

Old harbour warehouses

Old harbour warehouses

There’s just about time for a stroll down the South Bay before evening plans take precedence. How wonderful to sea traditional donkey rides on the beach! Despite the gusty weather a few little people are lifted onto the mules by their parents and they totally love it! If only I were less than 13 years old and no more than 7 stone…

Your games console is no match for this

Your games console is no match for this

My tour of the south bay ends shy of the famous Spa which I will visit tomorrow on my day off. Just time to catch the moment before heading off for sustenance.

Birds eye view of the old harbour

Birds eye view of the old harbour

One of the huge benefits of the Cleveland Way as opposed to some other long distance walks is that at the end of a most days walking you get to spend time in inspiring places like Scarborough. I intend to explore more thoroughly on my day off.

In a fair and just world there would be a fabulous pub just yards away from my digs. Just yards away from my digs I come across a fabulous pub. The North Riding Brew Pub is an old hotel that has been re-purposed as a brewery/pub. They keep it so simple and traditional here with no frills, just divine ales. The world is a fair and just place for me tonight.

Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A blowy walk over high cliffs interspersed with points of historical interest

High point
A tough call, but Scarborough old harbour takes some beating

Low point
Battling with my failed water bladder

Looking ahead
A day of leisure in Scarborough and then the final days walk to Filey!

Daily Stats
Stage  9 – Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough
Distance  14.4 miles Speed  2.7 mph
Lowest  154ft Highest  791ft
Ascent  764ft Descent  1017ft

…and the route taken…

Read Full Post »

I’m sitting in The Feathers pub, an old stone hostelry in Helmsley in the North Yorkshire national park. It’s a Sunday and day trippers are demolishing roast dinners on the surrounding tables. Out of the bay window the light is starting to fade on the ancient market place and a sprightly evening breeze is pushing the clouds along with some pace over the stone and timber buildings that typify Helmsley.

There’s a jovial atmosphere amongst my compatriots and conversation centres around exploits of the day but my mind is elsewhere because I’m precariously balanced on the edge of something good. Tomorrow I’ll check out of my youth hostel and set out on my 10 day walk along the Cleveland Way.

Helmsley Youth Hostel

Helmsley Youth Hostel

Rewind 12 hours. After weeks of planning I have finally packed my rucksack with the items I have been stockpiling for the walk. Weight has been my main headache and the scales say that my load will be 12 kilos, plus water and food for each day.

World on my shoulders

World on my shoulders

Is this good or bad? I don’t know but it feels OK. I’ve been obsessed with minimising weight since my recent trial walk in Devon. I have clothes for half of the walk and will launder them in Saltburn on day 6. I have phoned the laundry – it’s going to work. Yesterday I decided against light shoes for the evenings. I’ll do without. I bought a silk sleeping bag liner from Cambodia so I wont need my sleeping bag at the hostel in Kildale. I’ve left my gaiters and waterproof trousers at home because the long term forecast is dry. Ish.

My planning hasn’t just centred on weight. I’ve packed a single portion of porridge oats for Kildale as there is no shop there. I have plotted all of my destinations on Google maps and pre-cached the map so I should never get lost when out of phone signal range. There are scant few ATMs on the first half of the walk and I’ve taken out cash with which to pay for my first few nights stay. I know which spots are problematic for eating and have plans to stock up at prior locations. I’ve downloaded bus timetables in case blisters prevent me walking any day. And there’s more – much more. So you see, an awful lot of planning has taken place just to get me to the starting line.

And the starting line itself puzzles me. Helmsley is lovely! The 108 mile Cleveland Way starts here and ends in Filey which is, possibly, less lovely. Indeed as it stands I’m planning to walk to the penultimate stop Scarborough and finish the walk there. Who came up with this route?

Short cut

Short cut

The sign to Scarborough is also a little unnerving. It’s 31 miles away and by car you could be sat on the front with fish and chips within the hour. Does walking there over 10 days make any sense

Place of interest

Place of interest

One way of rationalising the walk is that if I don’t do it then I miss out on culinary highlights such as Auntie Anne’s Bakery. I may yet be the first person to complete the walk and actually gain weight. There will also be some fabulous sights en-route and one of the reasons I chose the Cleveland Way is the diversity of scenery.

Lovely Helmsley

Lovely Helmsley

The undeniable attraction of Helmsley will be different to other places I will visit. This pretty, small market town used to play a more significant part in regional affairs as signified by the castle.

Castle

Castle

There’s also a nice church as you might expect, but it’s the softer sights that appeal more to me.

Fun in the allotment

Fun in the allotment

An allotment brings fun and colour to one street. Flowers are in bloom still…

Wild colour

… and especially around the market square…

Helmsley in bloom

Helmsley in bloom

… which draws me back inevitably to food. On this thought and with the aroma of gravy wafting across the panelled dining room of The Feathers it’s time for me to cast aside the planning and rigour of the last few weeks. It’s time to enjoy the fruits of my planning, whatever they may be. I’ll start with a roast and a pint.

It’s the first day of September and almost instantly the temperature has dropped by a few degrees. Today I watched as brown leaves were blown around my feet into piles on the ground for the first time. Signs that our seemingly eternal summer may be on the wane. Tomorrow I may find myself walking into another season.

Read Full Post »